Sleep is Critical in the Creation and Retention of New Memories

Sleep is a natural human activity (or rather inactivity). Many people believe that sleep is important because the body needs to rest. For example, the muscles need to recuperate after hours of continuous activity. However, many people do not understand the connection between sleep and brain activity. Did you know that sleep directly affects your memory? A new study by Christoph Nissen and a team of researchers at Freiburg University shows that sleep is critical when it comes to the retention of new memories. The study, published in August 2016, by Nature Communications can be hardly considered revolutionary, but it differently proves one more time that sleep and proper brain function are closely interlinked.

The details of the research

Christoph, a psychiatrist by profession, and his team asked 20 participants to volunteer for the study. Eleven of these volunteers were men while nine were women. All of them were between 19 to 25 years of age.sleep_and_memory The researchers studied the participants on nights they slept well. They also studied them on sleepless nights. Staff members watched the participants during their sleepless nights to make sure that they did not fall asleep. Nissen employed the use of magnetic pulses and brain simulation to understand brain activity in those participants during the study period. He also used a memory to further analysis the volunteers.

The findings of the study

Nissen and his team discovered that sleep deprivation leads to overconnection in brain neurons. This creates muddled electrical activity in the brain making it difficult for a person to create and retain new memories. In the memory test, volunteers performed well when they had slept well the previous night. When sleep deprived, the participants performed poorly in the test. These findings showed that sleep helps the brain calm down by reducing its rate of electrical activity. This calmness allows the human brain to process new information and create and retain new memories.

The meaning of the study

This research provides many people with evidence of the importance of sleep. People who have jobs where sleep deprivation is common should not be surprised to notice that they have become more forgetful. Interestingly, psychiatrists now have a better understanding of sleep deprivation as a technique that is occasionally used to help deal with depression and schizophrenia in patients. This study provides medical experts with a scientific explanation for this technique. If further studied, psychiatrists can find a way of blocking the brain from creating and retaining bad memories in patients suffering from depression or schizophrenia. Based on this possibility, the study received praise from medical experts at the University of Wisconsin Madison and Oslo University.